Mr. Thompson — Brookville Area High School — Brookville, PA

Mr. Thompson is who made me want to be a teacher, and yet, he is also the one who made me understand how the teaching profession has evolved into something less than desirable. Although primarily our high school’s physics teacher, I had Mr. Thompson for 11th grade pre-calculus. It wasn’t that Mr. Thompson used innovative pedagogies or enticed us with high-tech instructional activities, but rather that he was empathetic and knew how to best support each of use toward our greatest potential in math and in life. He also didn’t put up with any nonsense. If you were going to goof off in class, then go ahead and lose out, but don’t distract others who were trying to learn. I knew that when I had Mr. Thompson it was his last year of teaching. However, he did not fall into the lull of indifference that some people do when facing imminent retirement. Mr. Thompson always had well-structured lesson plans for us to work through and never avoided reviewing, rehashing, or reconfiguring a concept that we didn’t remember or didn’t understand. His strength of character was evident when two students burst into the classroom yelling inappropriately at one another. Instead of bellering at the students to sit down and be quiet, Mr. Thompson fixed his steely gaze on the pair and calmly asked, “What did you just call one another?” And once they responded, “What characteristics are you trying to assign to each other by using that descriptive?” By getting these students to reflect on the verbiage they were using, Mr. Thompson turned what could have been an easily forgotten scolding into a transformative thinking opportunity that made these classmates of mine actually act differently in the future.
Sadly, Mr. Thompson passed away before I even graduated from college. I never got to share with him face-to-face how much I admired his presence and approach in the classroom. As a teacher now, I often reflect on the lasting learning experiences I wish to share with my students, and I can only hope that they are as positive and meaningful as the experiences I shared with Mr. Thompson.

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